December 1, 2013 \ Geeked Out \ 0 Comments
If I have learned anything from reviewing films is to surrender my expectations. However, I had low expectations when I viewed the original HUNGER GAMES (2012) and found it to be a surprisingly entertaining film. I liked it so much that I named it one of the best films of the 2012. Prior to seeing the film I had no exposure to the books and I had no idea what to expect from the story. After a slow start I found myself completely involved in the story. I was also impressed with the performance of Jennifer Lawrence as lead character Katniss Everdeen. She brings toughness, determination and vulnerability necessary for the role. Lawrence earned a nomination for an Oscar for her role in WINTER’S BONE (2010) and took home an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012). Clearly she is a very good actress and without her the film would simply be average. Can you imagine Kristen Stewart in the role? Me neither.
If you are reading this review I will assume that you have seen the original film therefore I will not go into details and plot of that film. The story picks up a short time after the end of the events of the first film. Katniss and games partner Peeta have returned to their home District 12. Katniss is reunited with her lover Gale while Peeta is still carrying a torch for Katniss. Katniss is still haunted by the events of the games and is still carrying guilt because of the death of Rue. Their time at home is short lived as Katniss and Peeta must go on a Victory Tour in which they go to each district and pay homage to the other tributes that lost their lives games. During the tour it becomes evident that not only are they heroes but they seem to have been a spark that has ignited a revolution against The Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss represents hope to the oppressed; Snow is not happy with this turn of events and develops a plan that forces Katniss to participate in the games once again. If Snow’s plan is successful it will eliminate Katniss for good and restore order throughout the twelve districts.
The film is a perfectly executed sequel. It takes the existing characters and ups the stakes for them while also expanding the themes of the original story. Effie (Elizabeth Banks), clothing designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and District 12 mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) have all returned have returned from the original story and we get to know a little more about them as well. The film follows the structure of the first film fairly closely but make no mistake, this is no carbon copy of the original. The training sequences and the actual games themselves take on a deeper meaning and with the stakes being higher it gives them more emotional resonance. Once the actual games begin the film is non-stop action with each set piece being better and more intense than the previous one. By the time was over I was worn out but in a good way.
CATCHING FIRE is a film that improves upon its predecessor. It joins THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as one the best sci-fi sequels of all times. Similar to that film it is darker and adds additional characters who play an important role the story. The film also has an opened-ended conclusion with sets up its third and final chapter. This film is spectacular entertainment and fans of the series are going to have a great time watching it. Katniss Everdeen will return and may the odds be ever in her favor.
This week we take a look at 2 new movies' The Best Man Holiday and Thor The Dark World. Which one is worth seeing? The History channel has announced they will be rebooting Roots into a 8 hour tv event. Should have a black film maker at the helm? More topics: Marvel and Netflix team up for 4 tv series. The top 10 grossing movies of all time.
Robin Thick vs. The Marvin Gaye Family. The lawsuit heats up We break down the players involved and just how shady the game is played.
Discussion on X-MEN Days Of Future Past - Trailer review and break down of the original story.
Are the trailers for The Anchorman 2 racists?
[youtube id="Elczv0ghqw0" width="600" height="350"]
Thor: The Dark World
I am not a comic book guy. I am not a big superhero fan, either. I am one those folks who still believes 1978’s SUPERMAN is and always be the best superhero movie ever made. The superhero genre made a resurgence with the release of 1989’s BATMAN. With the advance of special effects the films became larger in scope with story and characters taking a back seat to big action sequences. With the exception of THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, which took a real world approach to its story, the majority of the superhero films are style over substance.
The original THOR was released in 2011 as a part of the “Phase One: Avengers Assembled” group of films that consisted of IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, IRON MAN 2, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and THE AVENGERS. Each film was a box office success given the loyal fan base that these characters have. I found the original THOR to be an average film—not as good as some of the previous films in Phase One. Thor just is not an interesting character to anchor a film; he does not have an alter-ego, he is not a part of the mortal world, and he can be, well, preachy. The audience can have a difficult time relating to him, leaving him to be dull and uninteresting. This film is no different.
THE DARK WORLD picks up after the events in THE AVENGERS and the film reminds of us of this at least six times, referring to “the event in New York”. It seems that love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been unsuccessful at moving on and is still carrying a torch for Thor who is back on his home planet of Asgard. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned by his adopted father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). There is talk of something called Aether but I honestly have no idea what it is and why it is important but it seems to be very bad stuff. From there things happen, stuff blows up, there is endless talk of the Nine Realms and all of it went over my head. As always I take notes but in this case I need notes for my notes.
My opinions on films are not based on the reactions of other people, but I saw this film with its target audience and they did not seem too excited by the film. The lukewarm reception could be due to some technical difficulties that caused the screening to start almost an hour late. The film just was not a lot of fun and with its convoluted plot at least for me I was unable to become engaged in the story. There are some good comic relief moments provided by Foster’s assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig. There is also a funny cameo by one of the Avengers that drew some cheers from the audience.
The film will probably be a hit with its core audience but casual viewers should avoid this one. Once again the 3D format is gratuitous and should be avoided at all cost. As is true with most of the Marvel films, these films always have post-credit scenes; this film is no exception. There are two on this film, so be sure to stick around if interested. The credits also proudly proclaim that THOR WILL RETURN. I am sure he will. I just hope he returns in a much better film
12 Years a Slave
The cynic in me says that this film was only made to respond to DJANGO UNCHAINED. In my opinion that film was unfairly criticized for not accurately portraying the atrocities that took place during the era of slavery. I would argue that DJANGO was not about slavery, but a revenge film that is set during the era of slavery. Make no mistake 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a film about the atrocities of slavery. This film is also one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I have seen in quite some time.
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York with his wife and two children, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. After he determines there is no way to get anyone to believe his story, he decides that he has to try to survive rather than escaping. Based on a true story and book of the same name written by Northup and published in 1863, the film chronicles his 12 years struggling to keep his dignity while observing all the unjust treatment of not only himself but the other slaves as well. His first plantation owner, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) recognizes that he is not like the other slaves and treats him reasonably well. On one occasion Northup stands up for himself and is nearly killed for his action. This leads Ford to sell Northup to a more sadistic owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) where his resolve to survive is put to the ultimate test.
This film is brutally honest in its portrayal of slavery. Since it is based on the real life story of Northup it cannot be accused of being over the top. Director Steve McQueen pulls no punches in showing the events that took place during this time. McQueen uses several unbroken shots to enhance the audiences experience in the horror of slavery. Early in the film when Northrup discovers that he has been kidnapped and is being bound by chains, he is beaten by one of his kidnappers on his back with a paddle. This is shown in real time without cuts so the audience is unable to divert their attention elsewhere. Another sequence of note is another early scene in which a mother and her two children are sold separately. This shows one of the biggest horrors of that time which is the complete separation of families from each other forever. The scene is heartbreaking to watch but this was an unfortunate fact of the times. After Northrup tries to defend himself and has a fight with one of the overseers he is tortured by being hung but with just enough room so he can barely stand on his toes. In another unbroken shot we are shown Northup hanging for several minutes. McQueen uses the ambient sounds with “normal” life going on around him. No one attempts to help and the audience is forced to sit and watch him suffer. Some may say the sequence goes on too long but I thought that it help emphasize the point of his helplessness and suffering. However, the most disturbing and brutal moment of the film involves the whipping of another slave. I will not reveal the details because it is important to the plot but it the most heart wrenching scene in recent memory. It is absolutely brutal in its realism and it was at this point that I could hear audible sobbing from several members of the audience.
While this is a great film it is by no means perfect. The film’s opening disjointed structure had me confused. It would have suited the film better had it been told in order. The biggest misstep in the film is the casting of Brad Pitt in a pivotal role late in the film. It is no coincidence that Pitt is one of the producers of the film and he is cast in a role that is not slave owner. I did not feel like I was watching an actor here but watching a movie star playing dress up and attempting to give the film credibility. The material is strong enough and his presence was not needed.
I hesitate to call this film entertaining because of the dark nature of the film but it is gripping and compelling. I do expect multiple Academy Award nominations for the acting for Ejiofor, Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. The film is the polar opposite of DJANGO UNCHAINED so if you are going in thinking that it is that kind of movie you will be in for a shock. This is an important film that should be seen by all. Hopefully it will open up meaningful dialogue about this country’s history so we are not doomed to repeat the past. Much like SCHINDLER’S LIST it is an important film that documents a tragic time in history but it is not always easy to sit thru. The film is an important history lesson for all people. See it.
When I first received confirmation of the decision to remake Brian De Palma's classic 1976 film CARRIE, my first thought was, "Why remake a classic that, aside from the special effects and the 70’s clothing, is a pretty flawless film?” It is no secret that many popular film franchises that have run their course become fodder for, reboots, remakes and my personal favorite term: the reimagining. Some of the new versions ranged from the good (Friday the 13th) to the bad (My Bloody Valentine) to the downright ugly (Prom Night). Since most of these films fail to set the box office world on fire, I have to wonder why these movies keep getting remade. The cynical answer to both questions is simple: they are cheap to make and need very little advertising to get people in to the theater. They cast unknowns or TV actors in the roles, which aids in keeping the film’s budgets under control. They take shortcuts that make it possible for the studio to make a profit off of these remakes. The problem is that those shortcuts often sacrifice quality and creativity in the process. So as long as people go to see them, rent them or buy them they will continue to be made. Unfortunately, all of these horrors are true of the remake of Brian De Palma’s classic 1976 film CARRIE, which is another unnecessary remake in a long list of other unnecessary remakes.
I will admit I was more interested in this remake due to the decision to cast Chloë Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her overly-religious mother Margaret. Directing duties we assigned to Kimberly Peirce, the director of another awkward teen coming-of-age film BOYS DON’T CRY. Unfortunately that is where inspiration stopped. There is nothing new or fresh in this film. Lines of dialogue and entire scenes are lifted directly from the original film. Although the film is modernized with the use of cell phones and the Internet, even this update is mishandled. The technology is used to further torment Carrie but the opportunity to explore cyber-bulling of the story is more an afterthought in this film. The story’s climax which takes place at the prom-a possible upgrade to De Palma’s version- but the original maintains the edge due to the use of split-screen to show the mayhem that ensues. A car wreck and its aftermath on the occupants of vehicle in the remake is the best sequence in the entire film but it is not enough for me to recommend the film. The performances by Moretz and Moore are as good as you can expect but they are not enough to counter-balance the awful performances of the supporting actors in the film. Given the caliber of the director, I was surprised at the lack of quality in the performances.
I try view remakes in a vacuum and pretend any previous versions of the film do not exist: this is the only way I can fairly treat sequels, remakes, reboots, and "reimaginings". As I began to watch CARRIE I kept trying to convince myself that the original did not exist and enjoy this film on its own merits. Unfortunately, there were not many good merits to judge it by. Every time I saw something promising, there was a "but" that destroyed the effect. In short, I am disappointed with this film. It further cements my notion that Hollywood needs to stop with these remakes unless they truly have a new twist to the original material. The "twists" of this remake simply are not substantial enough to warrant the existence of this film. As I write this review, the original is streaming on Netflix: skip the remake and see the original instead.
This week we take a look at GTA5, is it worth all the hype? Breaking Bad is coming to an end and the guys get into a discussion about the last remaining episodes. Plus is Paypal jacking money from Kickstarter campaigns?
September 16, 2013 \ Geeked Out \ 1 Comment
We take a look at the upcoming flood of blockbuster films coming out in 2015. A look back at Star Trek Into Darkness, Michael thinks it's unwatchable. Should HBO make there app HBOGO available to everybody and not just cable subscribers?
Orange is the New Black
Breaking Bad spinoff
Man of Steel 2, Batman will be “tired and weary and seasoned.”
Disney is releasing a Star Wars movie every year after 2015
A review of Arsenio Halls return to latenite tv.
Geeked Out Returns! This week Michael Dean, Q Storm and Bigsexy chop it up about the latest in pop culture news. We start the show with a review of Riddick. Review of the ROBOCOP reboot trailer. We give our take on the whole Batman Ben Affleck controversy. Breaking Bad, Comic book talk, The X-Men Battle of the Atom and the DC Comics event 'Forever Evil'. Will Smith in talks to return to Independence Day sequel.
I've always had a problem with the Wolverine character in comics and in the movies, particularly in the movies. My problem was that the nature of Wolverine's fighting ability, using six foot-long claws, meant that in order to defeat a foe, it would mean killing them. What else can you do with claws against an enemy? And that would always mean that in a Wolverine fight scene, he would have to get his ass kicked for a good five minutes before delivering a death blow, so as not to make the fight scenes ridiculously short. Witness the fight scene in the original X-Men with Mystique. Witness the fight scene in X2 with Lady Deathstrike. Witness the fight scene in Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine where...oh, hell, I don't remember much about either of those films.
Well, all that's out the window with The Wolverine. This movie, whose story is loosely based on the defining Wolverine comic mini-series of the early 80s, is easily the best portrayal of Wolverine in any of the X-Men films. This is Wolverine doing what he's supposed to do, mainly slash, gut and eviscerate anyone who steps to him. Granted, most of the people he goes up against are secondary characters, but as there are technically no true supervillains in this film, we finally finally finally get to see Logan square off against his adversaries in true "let's get it poppin'" badass form. The fight scenes are excitingly choreographed, although they suffer from the PG-13 rating, which means when Wolverine uses his unique weaponry against a bad guy, we see the bad guy crumple over and we hear a sound effect akin to a heavy boot stepping into a pile of thick mud. If only this were an R-rated movie, so we the audience could see Logan engage in his bloody handiwork unfettered. The fact that you don't see the blood doesn't make it any less violent, in my opinion. So why not go all out? If I'm allowed to see zombie heads being severed on AMC, why not a little blood splatter in a movie about, um, the Wolverine, hello? But no matter, this is Wolverine at his fighting best. In full disclosure, I'll also say that I never really took to Jackman in the role, not because he was too tall (the comic character reportedly stands at 5' 3") but because he was too much of a pretty boy. I always pictured Gary Sinise in the role, an excellent actor with the right stature and a natural scowl. But after reading about 44 year old Jackman's training regimen and insanely rigid diet of seven chicken breasts a day around the clock, and seeing him acting every bit the part (for the first time, in my opinion), Jackman definitely earns his stripes in this one. Or his claws, if you prefer.
The underlying story is simple. Dying Japanese billionaire industrialist Yashida summons Logan to thank him for saving his life during the bombing of Nagasaki (Logan's healing factor renders him veritably ageless) and offers him a proposition: the chance for Logan to transfer his mutant healing ability into Yashida's body, thus saving Yashida's life and ending Wolverine's curse of virtual immortality. Things get hectic when it becomes known that Yashida has willed all his holdings to his daughter Mariko; everyone from the Japanese mob to the mutant Viper set their sights on Mariko to gain control of the industrial empire, or so it seems. Wolverine, for reasons not completely clear, becomes Mariko's protector and these initial scenes grab a tight hold and don't let up. The first act of the film culminates in a stunning fight scene aboard (literally) a 300 mph bullet train. This is a scene to rival the Air Force One midair rescue acrobatics in Iron Man 3. As the film convenes its second act, it become a little muddled and slows significantly. While there are still some really kick-ass fight scenes, characters and motivations become hard to follow. However, by this time, I was completely enthralled by the noirish aspects of the film (who doesn't like being a little confused by a good whodunit?) and the Japanese mise en scene.
I'm hearing that the third act is where the film falls apart for most people. Whereas the beginning and middle of the movie takes itself seriously, and justifiably so, the third act devolves into a trite comic book film. It becomes rather silly. I completely understand why these criticisms are leveled at the last half hour of the film, but I say that if we were able to accept that in the first X-Men movie, Magneto was able to build a machine that would turn regular humans into mutants by hooking Anna Paquin up to it, there's really no ground to criticize the third act of this film whatsoever. It requires about the same amount of suspension of disbelief. That is to say, it does become a bit of a head-scratcher, but I would say the same for some of the previous X-Men installments as well. I will say that once you exit the theater, if you stop to analyze it a bit, you will pause and ask yourself, "Well, why did this/these character(s) go through all THAT when they could've just done THIS?" I engaged in that for about three hours afterwards. I will say that I was less bothered by this last act than by the numerous dream sequences that hit us over the head with the fact that this movie picks up where X3: The Last Stand ended.
However, my bottom line is that this is the Wolverine that I've been wanting to see since the year 2000, when the X-Men debuted onscreen. The supporting characters; Yukio, Mariko Yashida, Shingen, Harada and Viper are all on point. I loved the noir mystery tone the film sets once Logan arrives in Japan. I loved the fact that the movie is set in Japan and that Japanese dialogue is subtitled, adding realism and an international dynamism to the film (as well as increasing its chances to make a mint overseas). I loved the Silver Samurai. But most of all, I love being able to say finally that Hugh Jackman killed (again, literally) as The Wolverine. 4/5 reels
P.S. I'd heard that the bonus scene, which appears soon after the credits begin to roll, was as good as the entire movie. I guess I'm in the minority there. If you've read the X-Men story arc entitled "Days Of Future Past," which by now, should be no spoiler to say is the basis of the next X-Men film, then I'm not sure why you'd be more than just mildly entertained by this scene. What it did for me was show how the great Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan have aged since X3.
More reviews at Lightning Strikes!